Rabbi Yaakov Nadler, a fourth-grade teacher at Yeshivat Noam, will begin offering fourth and fifth graders in the community a chance to participate in a hands-on learning program that is intended to be both educational and enjoyable. Torah Champs is an independent learning program based on a book called Yahdus, which details mitzvot in a comprehensive fashion. Participants will gain an in-depth understanding of mitzvot and what they represent. The learning will be paired with all sorts of excursions, including fun centers and trampoline parks.
Rabbi Nadler founded the program in response to the growing number of students he encountered who wanted to learn more Torah. Rabbi Nadler wanted to produce a program that would foster a sense of community and togetherness, much in the way that basketball and baseball programs do on the weekends. From this vision, Torah Champs was born. “As a teacher I see students who are not engaged in competitive sports and therefore don’t have an outlet to create community; I wanted to create a learning program which will create a community around Torah,” explained Rabbi Nadler.
The Yahdus curriculum explains the mitzvot in a child-friendly manner and can be learned individually or with the help of a parent. There will be get-togethers on Sundays for interactive learning experiences that will expand children’s knowledge of Torah beyond the scope of what is being learned at school. Rabbi Nadler will be creating study guides and other resources to assist the kids in their learning. He believes that by learning the details of the mitzvot, students will gain a broader understanding of Torah, allowing it to become imprinted in their memories.
Torah Champs offers two tracks, a competitive option and an option that speaks to the child who just wants to learn. In order to participate in the program, kids must purchase the Yahdus book and commit to be a part of the learning. Those who opt for the competitive track will take their learning to a higher level. Some kids want to be in it to win it and some just want to learn and don’t want to compete, Rabbi Nadler noted. As students learn the material, they will take online tests to make sure they are keeping up with the curriculum. Those who earn at least a 70 percent on the assessments will qualify for a grand trip as well as a trophy in recognition of their dedication and hard work. Kids who are proficient in their learning will qualify to compete in a community-wide Chidon. Rabbi Nadler wants kids to know that it will be equally rewarding to participate on a non-competitive level, as all kids enrolled in Torah Champs are invited on exciting trips and meaningful experiences, including a visit to a sofer, learning to make tzitzit and other opportunities to watch mitzvot come alive.
Originally from Crown Heights, Rabbi Nadler is a certified social worker and has been teaching in Bergen County for many years. Prior to working at Yeshivat Noam, Rabbi Nadler was a teacher at SINAI and RYNJ. Rabbi Nadler describes himself as a master storyteller, which, as his students can attest, promises an entertaining and enlightening approach to learning. Because he is passionate about his teaching, he believes his students are eager to come to class. “They learn so much because they are excited to learn,” he added. Rabbi Nadler wants his students to “own what they learn.” For example, he believes teaching Hebrew is not enough; he wants students emerging as bilingual.
An entrepreneur in his spare time, Rabbi Nadler is very driven when he sees a need. It is this characteristic that propelled him to establish Torah Champs, which will hopefully fill a niche that in his opinion the community is lacking. With his in-depth knowledge of technology, he hopes to create online resources so that this program can be replicated in other communities across the country. One of the tremendous advantages to technology is the ability to share something not just with people around you but with the broader community as well, he declared. There is no charge for participation in Torah Champs other than the cost of the Yahdus book. The actual trips will be subject to a nominal fee, but the goal is to keep it affordable, allowing everyone to participate. For more information or to register, please go to torahchamps.org.torahchamps.org.
By Andrea Nissel